Willie Nelson

Stardust

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At the height of outlaw country, Willie Nelson pulled off perhaps the riskiest move of the entire bunch. He set aside originals, country, and folk and recorded Stardust, a collection of pop standards produced by Booker T. Jones. Well, it's not entirely accurate to say that he put away country and folk, since these are highly idiosyncratic interpretations of "Georgia on My Mind," "All of Me," "Moonlight in Vermont," and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," blending pop, country, jazz, and folk in equal measures. It's not that Willie makes these songs his own, it's that he reimagines these songs in a way that nobody else could, and with his trusty touring band, he makes these versions indelible. It may be strange to think that this album, containing no originals from one of America's greatest songwriters, is what made him a star, and it continues to be one of his most beloved records, but it's appropriate, actually. Stardust showcases Nelson's skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic -- where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together -- perhaps better than any other album, which is why it was a sensation upon its release and grows stronger with each passing year.

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